Tag Archives: horror

Interview: Haunting and Horror Writer Pamela Morris Talks Books, Women in Horror, and Historical Locations #WIHM #womeninhorror #historicalhorror

Tomorrow is the last day of February and the closing of Women in Horror Month, but I know that I for one won’t stop celebrating women all year long. Stay tuned in March for a little announcement on how I will do that even more on schedule than I have before on this site, even though a majority of people featured here has always been predominately women.

Today, join me for a last segment in my mini women in horror month series. Pamela is a cool horror writer I met online years ago through our mutual friendship with horror author Hunter Shea. She likes her ghouls and haunts and history and so this will be a fun and interesting interview to read. Enjoy!

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Hi Pamela, welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I’m so glad you could join us. I have strong coffee or tea, whichever you’d prefer, or stiff drink. Take your pick, and if the former, tell me how you take it.

Pamela: Hey, Erin. It’s nice to be here. *checks the time* Coffee sounds great, with a double shot of Jameson and some whipped cream sounds about right after that chilly walk over here.

Erin: That sounds incredibly wonderful! Let’s carry them into the dining room and begin our chat!

I’ve known you for quite a few years, meeting you online from Hunter Shea. I know you are a fan of the paranormal and write many books in that vein. Can you tell my readers a bit about that and what you write?

Pamela: I have always been interested in all things occult and paranormal. It was something I grew up being very curious about and was never discourage away from learning. I’ve also been an avid reader all my life, so I guess the two just went hand-in-hand. First you read it. Then, in my case, you start writing about it. My first paranormal story was a three-page tale titled “The Strange Well” that I wrote when I was ten.

As I grew older, the stories got longer until now, I focus mainly on novels. My first two supernatural novels also happened to be murder-mysteries and are set in Barnesville, the fictionalized version of the small town I grew up in. Barnesville is home to a secret coven of witches who keep an eye on things. Currently I have four books set in Barnesville and there will be more eventually. These books lean towards the YA crowd.

In addition to The Barnesville Chronicles, I have a psychological horror that is very dark and deals with some taboo subject matter: abuse, rape, incest, murder, etc. Not YA in the least. Lastly, I wrote ghost story where a lot of the story is told from the perspective of the three ghosts involved. You don’t just see or hear what they are doing, but you get to know them as they were in life and why they are doing what they are doing, not just to the living but to their fellow trapped spirits.

Erin: What is your newest book and what’s that about? What did you find the most fun about writing that one and why?

Pamela: Last year I released a novel and a short story. The novel was the second part and conclusion to “The Witch’s Backbone” one of my Barnesville books. It’s very much a coming-of-age type tale. Five kids living in a small town decide to find out the truth about their local urban legend. The legend involves a witch named Rebekkah Hodak who is rumored to haunt a narrow ravine just outside town. It’s said that if you go to where her body was found, see her, and meet her gaze, you’re cursed to die an early, and possibly gruesome, death. One of the kids, twelve-year-old Tara Fielding, accidently sees what she believes to be this witch. Her panic and belief in the legend are what spawns the organization of a camping trip into the nearby woods. Horror ensues.

The short story is all about my personal fear of spiders, “Because, Spiders.” It’s about a nine-year-old girl whose fear is even greater than my own. She’s convinced there’s a giant spider hiding in the shed behind her house and she’s pretty sure it caught and ate the neighbor’s dog, too.

Erin: Do you feature any strong female in starring or supporting roles in your novels and stories? Tell us about a few and what their traits are?

Pamela: Most of my lead characters are women. In The Barnesville Chronicles, that would be Nell Miller. She’s the local small town librarian, who also happens to be a member of the coven mentioned earlier. She’s very out about being Pagan and confident in her magic abilities. She’s a bit of an instigator, always wanting to know more, do more, take action. She’s no Nervous Nellie, that’s for sure. She’s not one to turn down a challenge and will often drag her reluctant friends into helping her out.

In “Dark Hollow Road”, the psychological horror, one of the lead female characters is Mary Alice Brown. She’s the eldest of four and after the death of their mother, she’s the one responsible for taking care of all the rest. She struggles a lot with all that entails, including dealing with their abusive, alcoholic father. She does her best to protect them from him, even if that means she gets hurt in the process. She’s very shy, not well educated, and the victim of a lot of bullying both at home and around town, but she retains her sense of what is right and wrong, she has her hopes and dreams. She’s a fighter.

Erin: I love mysteries and historical research as well. How do those two loves of yours factor into your work?

Pamela: Every year for many, many years I’d get at least four Nancy Drew books for Christmas. I’d have them read by the end of January and craving more. That’s where my love of mysteries started and what greatly influenced what I write. Later I’d graduate to Agatha Christie and Wilkie Collins, but Nancy Drew was really the one that taught me that a mystery doesn’t always have to involve a murder.

My maternal grandmother was really interested in family genealogy so I think that may be where my love of history started. She liked antiques and all that. From 2004-2011, I was an American Civil War reenactor. That required a lot of research to know what the heck I was doing or talking to others about as my living history persona. The two main ghosts in “No Rest For The Wicked” are from that time period. I like to keep things as historically accurate as I can so all the research I did for my reenacting, was poured into them. The witches of Barnesville are descendants of the people accused of witchcraft in Connecticut from 1647 to 1663. No Salem witches for me – too typical. I wanted to be different, at last a little bit anyway. So, yeah, lots of real history worked in to everything I write – including that secret Barnesville coven that allegedly existed in my real hometown when I was a teenager!

Erin: What is one piece or location of history you’d like to explore of have explored for your writing or just for general interest? What interesting things have you found?

Pamela: Probably the Salem Witch Trials. I wrote my final high school English paper on the possible causes of the events that took place there. At the time, my mom was working at the main research library at Cornell University and that gave me magical access to the collection of documents housed there on the topic. I got to sit in a locked room with nothing but a pencil, paper, and some of the original document from which I took notes. With those and a few other books I owned at the time, I put together my paper. In 1989 my first husband and I went to New England for our honeymoon and decided we needed to spend the day in Salem. It was a rather whirlwind tour of the place, but still pretty neat. It wasn’t until many, many years later that I’d learn one of the women accused was a distant relative! It was also much later while doing some genealogy research for a friend that I learned about the Connecticut Witch Trials that preceded Salem by about thirty years. It was from this research that I drew the founders, and first coven members, of fictional Barnesville.

Erin: That’s so cool!! How hard do you feel it is to write mysteries and tie up all the points? How do you do so? Outline? What are the challenges and what are the rewards?

Pamela: Only my first two books were murder-mysteries and it was a lot more difficult than I’d initially thought. I’m normally a pantster (meaning I don’t outline … at all), I just write and kind of know where I’m headed or want to head. The mysteries wouldn’t allow that much freedom. Not only do you have to know who committed the murder, why, and how – but you have to come up with believable alibis for all the suspects, the reasons they might have committed the crime, and a secret they have that would cause them to lie about their whereabouts or motivations. Good grief! Plus, if you’re going to touch on police procedures that’s another layer of research to look into. All this is a bit more restricting than I like being, but … the reward of pulling it off, for misdirecting successfully, and it all still making sense in the end feels great.

Erin: You grew up watching horror, I believe. What are some of your great influences and what do you prefer to watch now? Same then with the reading, let us know reads you’ve loved and those who influence your work.

Pamela: Yes, I’ve been watching Horror since I was a wee thing. It started with the local Saturday afternoon horror show, “Monster Movie Matinee’. With the cartoons over, it was time to sit on the floor with a little tray of lunch and take in the creature feature. They showed mostly Universal movies – Creature from the Black Lagoon, Dracula, Abbot and Costello Meet The Wolfman, The Ghost and Mr. Chicken – family friendly horror, I guess. I grew into the Friday and Saturday night programming after that, darker stuff that started after the 11 o’clock news. Hammer Pictures, a lot of Christopher Lee. I love me them vampires! “Let’s Scare Jessica To Death”, “Night of the Living Dead”, “The Haunting of Hill House”, and “The Legend of Hell House”, “The Other” and “Dark Secret of Harvest Home” are the most memorable ones. Once in a while they’d have a great Made-For-TV movies on. “Night of the Scarecrow” was terrifying to me and my novel “Secrets of the Scarecrow Moon” was directly inspired by it. Elements of “The Other” also come into play in my book. Lastly, being from Rod Serling Country in Upstate New York, I adored both Twilight Zone and Night Gallery.

Oddly, I have a harder time coming up with books that influenced my writing. The style of certain authors inspired me, but maybe not so much the stories themselves. Tanith Lee, a British author, had a collection of kind of Horror\Sci-fi stuff that involved twisted fairy tales. Before her, I’d never heard of doing such a thing. I thought it was super cool and tried my hand at it with varied success. The fine art of short stories eludes me, though I keep trying. I liked Stephen Kings whole ‘small town – weird secret’ theme, too. That can be found in the Barnesville books. Of course, there’s good old Nancy Drew, again. I really enjoy books that make me think more about what’s going on, stories that misdirect the reader and have a lot of unexpected twists, endings that make me sit there and go, “Huh. I never saw that coming at all.” That’s what I try to do.

Erin: I’m a history buff too, and I know you were a Civil War re-enactor for a decade. What role(s) did you play? What was exciting about it? What type of horror or haunts did you learn? Have you used any of your time doing this in your writing?

Pamela: I played the wife of a field embalmer – aka an undertaker. It was very uncommon at the time, but not unheard of. It was also a very lucrative business. A lot like selling life insurance. My job was to gather the personal items of the deceased, write the letter home to his family, and mourn the poor soul appropriately. That involved sitting next to the coffin while dressed in black, wearing a black veil, and weeping (or pretending to weep). Those Victorians viewed death a lot differently than we do, mourning and a proper Christian burial was paramount. Embalming was a new science – formaldehyde hadn’t been invented yet so there was a variety of embalming fluid recipes. All very morbid to a lot of people. A lot of visitors wouldn’t even stop at our display. As I mentioned earlier, the two main ghosts in “No Rest For The Wicked” are from this time period and the man, Beauregard Addams, was the owner of a funeral parlor as well as having been a field embalmer and surgeon during the war.

Erin: That’s so interesting! Also, a mutual fan of road trips, do you take any to historical or haunted locations?

Pamela: No, we have not intentionally sought out haunted or historical locations. My husband isn’t into the whole paranormal or horror thing as much as I am, though I did manage to drag him to Granger, Texas to see the house used in the 2003 remake of Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It’s not far from where his mom lives. So, that was cool. I also dragged him out to Terligua in West Texas for the Day of the Dead in the cemetery there. He humors me in all my ghostly, cemetery, haunted weirdness ways.

This summer we are hoping to make a delayed trip out to Boston Harbor to see the USS Constitution, might swing by Salem, but I want to go to Danvers, Massachusetts to see the homestead of Rebecca Towne Nurse who was one of the woman accused and hung for witchcraft back in 1692. She was also my 7x great aunt so I’m kinda curious about all that. We also plan on swinging over to Plimoth Plantation followed by Fall River to see Lizzie Borden’s old stomping grounds then west to wander through Sleepy Hollow for a bit before heading home.

Other road trips are much shorter, day trips or a weekend long adventure on the motorcycle. Anything beyond a four hour ride gets a bit sore on the old bottom!

Erin: Oh nice! That came in once near where son is in DC (the USS Constitution and other tall ships) and he loved it. He’s huge on that stuff (me too). That sounds like some amazing road trip stuff! I want to do all of that too. haha!

What are you working on now and what are your plans for the near future in terms of your writing?

Pamela: I am just finishing up the 4th draft of what I’m calling a Texas Gothic Horror titled “The Inheritance”. It should be ready this summer. I’m a big fan of the classic Gothic genre, old stuff, like Bram Stoker, Poe, and Wilkie Collins and really wanted to write something along those lines. But, I also wanted it to be contemporary, so I set it in the West Texas desert, added some bad ass bikers, and a band of really pissed off Apache spirits. Good times! This was great fun to write! And using the traditional plotting schemes of a Gothic novel really made things zip along. The most fun maybe was doing the research for this – ya know, actually being in the West Texas desert and taking notes, soaking it all in. Creating the biker gang was a blast, too.

Erin: What tips do you have for other women in horror in support of each other or sharing work?

Pamela: I’m really happy that I’m seeing more and more female writers in the Horror genre. There were so few that I knew of as a kids and for as much as I loved King, it would have been every nicer to have had more women to look up to.

I’ve always written what I loved to read and that’s the first thing you need to do, male or female. If you love monsters and freaky creatures, write about them. If you love vampires, write about them. If you love ghosts facing off against bad ass biker chicks, write about them! Your personal passion will come through in your writing. Start there and run with it. Read other female Horror authors. I’ve found their work so much more relatable. Where the men tend to go for the more violent, blood-slinging slasher, women, at least in my readings, tend to be more subtle and devious. But, hey – if you’re a lady and enjoy wielding that machete or ax, swing away!

Enjoy yourself and with any luck at all, those who read your work will enjoy reading it as much as you did writing it. It’s all about having fun after all, right?

Erin: Thanks so much for joining us today, Pamela! You’re welcome anytime, especially if you’ve got a good haunting story. Haha! Let us know where readers can find you, please.

Pamela: It was great chatting with you, Erin. All my titles can be found on Amazon and everything is available in both paperback and Kindle formats. I also have a website, pamelamorrisbooks.com. There are a few free short stories there and a blog where I babble about crows and other random weirdness, sometimes Horror-related, sometimes not. On Facebook, I can be found at Facebook. Folks are welcome to Like an Follow me there, of course. I’m pretty active on Twitter if folks want to follow me there, @pamelamorris65.

Thank you for having me over and letting me babble on about my work. I must say, you make a mean Irish coffee. And with that, in the words of Morticia Addams, “Have a delightfully dreary day!”

Erin: HAHA!! Anytime. It’s rather snowy here so I shall have a freezing night for sure. 😀

Pamela Morris Biography –

PamelaMorris_2019_2Raised in the Finger Lakes region of Upstate New York, but forever longing for the white sands of her birthplace in New Mexico, Pamela has always loved mysteries and the macabre. In high school she quickly found herself labeled ‘That Witchy Chic.’ And school dances? Forget about it! You’d be far more likely to find her at the local small town library on a Friday night or listening to a Horror movie soundtrack in her darkened bedroom.

When her nose wasn’t buried in a vampire novel or any number of books penned by her favorite authors such as Poe, Stephen King, Anne Rice, Bram Stoker, Tanith Lee, Shirley Jackson, and Wilkie Collins, Pamela was probably watching ‘Monster Movie Matinee,’ ‘Twilight Zone,’ ‘Kolchak: The Night Stalker,” and a myriad of Hammer Films that further fed her growing obsession with Horror.

All grown up now, Pamela has raised two children and enjoys drawing and painting, watching bad B-Movies, remaining ever vigilant to the possibility of encountering a UFO or Bigfoot, an taking road trips with her husband on the Harley. She feeds the local murder of crows in her back yard and still hasn’t quite figured out how she became the Cvlt Leader for The Final Guys Podcast.

TWB1_Curse_CoverFrontThe Witch’s Backbone – Part 1: The Curse

It’s 1980 and the dog days of summer have settled over the small farming community of Meyer’s Knob. Five friends have spent their time at the local creek swimming and gathering crayfish, riding bikes, and mostly just trying to avoid boredom.

When tomboy Tara Fielding reports she’s spotted what she believes to be the witch of their local urban legend, and is now subject to that legend’s deadly curse, her friends rally ‘round and decide they’re going to prove there’s no such thing. After lying to their parents about where they’ll be, the friends head out to The Witch’s Backbone where, the legend claims, the witch waits for foolish travelers who dare pass that way at night.

What the group witnesses during this late summer field trip and what they find out after they return to civilization, does little to put anyone’s mind at ease, least of all Tara’s. Not only do they now believe this long-dead 19th century witch is real, but that she has friends who are still practicing the Black Arts, friends that will see to it that the legend’s curse is carried out.

Are there evil witches stalking the woods and sun-starved ravines between Meyer’s Knob and the neighboring town of Barnesville? Or have the kids just let boredom, the oppressive summer heat, and their own imaginations get the better of them?

Link to Amazon

NRFTWfront_coverNo Rest For The Wicked

 Theirs was a hatred that lived beyond the grave.

A powerless domestic who searches for escape. Naked and screaming, the ghost of Sadie Price wants nothing more than to strike terror into all who dare enter Greenbrier Plantation.

A murderous wife who seeks justice. Lucy thought shooting her philandering husband and his mistress would bring her peace, but her subsequent suicide only creates a more hellish existence for her in the afterlife.

A sadistic doctor who refuses to relinquish control. Dr. Addams stalks the house and grounds of Greenbrier Plantation using his dark powers to control his Earth-bound spirits and anyone living who dares get in his way.

Can peace ever come to these tortured souls or are they eternally damned to walk the earth as proof that there really is no rest for the wicked?

Link to Amazon

DarkHollowRoad-FrontOnlyDark Hollow Road

 A past filled with terror.

On Dark Hollow Road, Mary Alice Brown and her siblings know little more than poverty and abuse at the hands of their father. Getting rid of their tormentor seemed the answer to bringing joy back into their lives. But when that doesn’t work, Mary takes it upon herself to see that justice is served.

A present full of dread.

After an unusual visit from an elderly woman looking to borrow sugar, the theft of his coloring book, and complaints about other kids bothering him in the middle of the night, six-year-old Brandon Evenson, who lives within sight of the house on Dark Hollow Road, goes missing.

A future obsessed with revenge.

Desperate, Brandon’s parents seek answers from Lee Yagar, a local who’s warned people time and again of the dangers lurking at the old Brown place. But, Lee’s suggestion that Mary is involved in Brandon’s abduction makes little sense.

Mary is presumed dead, as she’s not been seen in decades, but is she? And is the house truly as empty and abandoned as it appears to be?

A psychological horror driven by hate, fear, and every parent’s worst nightmare.

Link to Amazon

WiHM11-GrrrlBlack

Thanks for following along!

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Filed under HookonWiHM, Q and A with Authors, women in history, women in horror

Cover Reveal and News: The Cipher by Kathe Koja in Print from @MeerkatPress #TheCipher #WomeninHorror

Cover Reveal and Info on The Cipher by Kathe Koja –

Many longtime horror fans, especially those who’ve always loved the mass market horror of the 80s and early 90s, probably know what The Cipher by Kathe Koja is all about or they’ve at least heard of it. The first Dell/Abyss copies from the early 90s are highly sought after and can be expensive online (and a cause for celebration if one is found thrift shopping). Kathe is one of the best-known old-school women in horror in my opinion of that time period, if not of entirety of writers, and she’s still to be admired to this day. Especially in the Midwest, rust belt, great lakes areas, as she’s from Michigan, I know Kathe is held in high regard as an author, director, producer, but I think it’s safe to say it extends farther as her work has been translated multiple times.

And she’s cool as all get out. Few handfuls of women rose to the ranks of being allowed to publish horror back then (yes, back then haha), let alone continued their creative careers. If you never heard of her, I’m sorry and please change that! If anything, if not from me, some of you have heard of her now that you’re listening, reading, and watching Josh Malerman rise in popularity. He will praise Kathe Koja any day.

So now that you’re nodding your head as you already know and like Kathe or her work, or you’ve gathered a touch of why this print release is important to the genre, I’d like to help present the cover reveal from Meerkat Press for the anticipated print release of The Cipher! What it’s all about, I’ll give a snippet of below, but it’s for serious horror fans, and all of them should read and decide for themselves on this book. Please know it’s in the body horror sub-genre (which is a growing genre only getting some traction now – imagine Kathe writing it decades ago!). It may make some of you queasy, some of you will love that, and some of you will be unsettled. It’s not for all my readers who follow me. But if you do read it, you’ll not be able to turn away from Kathe’s beautiful writing style. It will be available for pre-order at the link below and publish later in September 2020.

Take a look at this great cover and then read on below it for a little more information on the book and Kathe. Thanks for learning about books with me. Comments are always welcome.

– Erin Al-Mehairi

THECIPHER.png

Haven’t heard of The Cipher?

The Cipher in print was long sought out and searched for after for years and only available in e-book starting in 2012, after it first made its appearance from Dell’s new Abyss imprint. Now, it finally becomes available again from Meerkat Press!

THE CIPHER by KATHE KOJA

PUBLISH DATE: 9/15/20

COVER ARTIST: KEITH ROSSON

PUBLISHER: MEERKAT PRESS

Kathe Koja’s classic novel of fear, obsession, creation, and destruction, The Cipher, which reopens the door on the Funhole with this brand new and long-awaited print edition. It is the winner of the Bram Stoker Award, Locus Award, and a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award.

Prior Praise for The Cipher

“An ethereal rollercoaster ride from start to finish.” – The Detroit Free Press

“This powerful first novel is as thought-provoking as it is horrifying.” – Publishers Weekly

“Unforgettable … [THE CIPHER] takes you into the lives of the dark dreamers that crawl on the underbelly of art and culture. Seldom has language been so visceral and so right.” – Locus

“[THE CIPHER] is a book that makes you sit up, pay attention, and jettison your moldy preconceptions about the genre … Utterly original … [An} imaginative debut.” – Fangoria

More info –> https://www.meerkatpress.com/kathe-kojas-thecipher-coverreveal/

Meerkat Press Website

Twitter – @meerkatpress

From Booklist circa around 2012 at e-book release {Portion removed for spoiler} –

“Winner of both a Bram Stoker Award and a Locus Award in 1991, Koja’s debut has yet to lose one iota of impact. It’s a marvel of bleak economy: Nicholas, going nowhere in his video-store-clerk job, discovers a foot-wide black vortex in an old storage room of his apartment building. His caustic sometime-lover, Nakota, christens it “the Funhole” and begins inserting experimental items. Seemingly influenced equally by Clive Barker, David Cronenberg, and a particularly distasteful nightmare, this entry into the body-horror canon carries with it the kind of fatalism horror readers prize—it’s going to end badly, for sure, but just how badly? Currently available in an e-book version from multiple sources, this is well worth rediscovering, if you’ve got the guts.” – Daniel Kraus, Booklist (and we all know who Daniel Kraus is now!)

The portion I took out explained a bit was they insert and what happens. But I’ll let Meerkat Press supply a synopsis when ready or at pre-order, which you may find a link to above!

Kathe Koja, Biography –

Kathe-Koja-credit-Rick-LiederKathe Koja writes novels and short fiction, and creates and produces immersive fiction performances, both solo and with a rotating ensemble of artists.

Her work crosses and combines genres, and her books have won awards, been multiply translated, and optioned for film and performance.

She is based in Detroit and thinks globally. She can be found at kathekoja.com.

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Filed under Cover Reveals, women in horror

Review/Interview: Jennifer Loring on Conduits, Japanese Folklore, and Writing Mental Illness with Empathy #horror #mentalillness #womeninhorror

In mid-November, I read a short book that I had meant to finish as an October read. I’m glad I didn’t give up on getting it read. Conduits by Jennifer Loring wouldn’t stop demanding my time. It’s categorized, so I thought, as a horror novel, but it deals more with the horror inside your own mind. So psychological suspense mostly with some Japanese folklore and it’s a brain trip for sure. I’m glad I checked it out. You’ll be able to read my full review below, then join me for an interview with Jennifer.

As many of you know, since in my life I’ve dealt with some pretty heavy and emotional topics, so do I write stories with these themes as well as read them. Some people who go through trauma and then have triggers so badly they can’t write, read, or watch about them. That’s just not me. But I understand if it’s you. So if suicide or mental illness is a trigger for you even in an otherwise amazing read, then you might consider that before reading the below interview or the book. They deal with some dark subjects. However, I hope you’ll read them both and be moved or maybe heal. It’s categorized as horror, but it’s due to the mental illness component and the horrors of our own minds. It’s really more psychological suspense.

Conduits

Conduits, Review –

The book was touching and heart-wrenching all at the same time. I like books that make me feel to this level. This little novella Conduits was first published by another publisher and then re-published by Lycan Valley in Spring 2019. I was drawn to it as I love Japanese literature and horror and it was in shorter form (love short form horror). I initially was unsure when it started about some of how the words were catching instead of rolling off my tongue (and flowing in my head) but quickly that was put to rest as I learned her cadence and the content (protagonist) sent my mind into circles. A literary dreamscape of a piece not unlike horror you’d watch in a episodic tv  show. It’s its own shard of glass (you’ll know what I mean when you read it) in an otherwise cookie cutter world. It’s so original and free-flowing and truly showcases the art our mind can create when allowed to roam freely. I found this truly beautiful even though some of the content was sad, as we get down on mental illness so many times, and yet, people who struggle with it sometimes have the most amazing ability to see things we cannot otherwise see in this blinded world. The emotional weight this tiny book carries is huge, and I’m relating and scared all at the same time. It was touching my deepest recesses of pain. It will touch all the pain you have too.

I loved how she interwove Japenese folklore into the book and I think she did an extremely good job of showcasing the inside of mental health facilities. By the end, you don’t know who to believe or what is going on, except for in the protagonist’s heart. Which is really all that matters that in terms of people, isn’t it?

It may need a second read to fully grasp every component and nuance but it certainly has the feels if you like your horror emotionally-driven, ambiguous, and thought-provoking. Read this one and enjoy every word. Loring truly does have her own writing voice. I’d be interested to see how others interpret the ending. It’s suspenseful, psychological, dreamy in an Alice down the rabbit hole sort of way. It’s a quick read but I’d read it when you have a little of time on hand to think it through and ponder on it.

Join me for an interview with Jennifer about Japanese folklore, research, mental illness, and the future of horror! Enjoy.

___________________________

Hi Jennifer! Welcome to Oh, for the Hook of a Book! I recently read your book, Conduits, and was intrigued by it so I wanted to ask you a few questions. I’m very happy you’ve dropped by. You can head and have a seat at the dining table, those chairs have comfy seats, and I’ll bring in some hot tea. Or if you chose something else, say the word!

Jennifer: Hi, Erin, and thanks! I’m glad to be here.

Erin: There is some cream and sugar on the tray too if you need it. And I’ve brought in some ginger scones. I’ve been trying out new holiday recipes!

Jennifer: Sounds yummy! Thanks for reminding me that I still need to bake ginger cookies!

Erin: Let me ask you a few things about your book – which I suppose readers could get a jest of from my review. How did you become interested in Japanese literature and folklore?

Jennifer: It was because of Japanese horror movies and video games that I started researching Japanese mythology. In the early 2000s, Asian horror was the big trend. I’d also begun playing games like the Fatal Frame series, Kuon, and so forth, which rely heavily on Japanese folklore and myth. The yūrei—the ghosts we all know and love with the long black hair and white clothing—are such striking figures that I knew I had to incorporate them into a story at some point. It was many years before I actually did, but that’s where the seed for Conduits was planted.

Japaneseyokai-yufurei-meijiera

A yūrei / From Wiki

Erin: Did you research or utilize any particular customs or legends for Conduits or was it all fiction?

Jennifer: I used actual Shinto customs as well as the concept of the miko (shrine maiden) in her original form as a shamanistic figure. Shrine maidens used to perform spirit possession and takusen (dream revelation), so this was the ideal figure for me to use as the antagonist in Conduits. I made up the part about the miko carving into herself with glass in her function as an intermediary between the shrine’s god and the villagers, but most of the other stuff was taken from real Shinto rituals.

Erin: Did the legend of the suicide forest in Japan inspire any of your story?

Jennifer: Not directly, no. But I’m very familiar with the legend, so it may end up in future work. 😊

Erin: I only asked that question because a part of it reminded me of that. Mmmm…well, I suppose the over theme is there in terms of this. Suicide is a difficult topic and hard for people to read. I’ve had it hit close to home for me and I’ve written about it in some of my work, but for others they shy from it. I’ve been having a debate about that for a few years online in terms of trigger warnings. How do you feel about writing about topics that push people’s sensory boundaries and how do you feel about warnings?

Jennifer: Suicide hits close to home for me too, which is one of the reasons I’ve written about it a few times now. I understand why some people want warnings, but I also think that some use them as an excuse not to have to think critically about or be challenged by things they don’t like. Everyone has triggers, but it’s not realistic to expect that the world can be sanitized so that no one gets offended by or exposed to difficult topics. We learn to deal with them by confronting them, not by pretending they aren’t there. In horror especially, I think there should be a reasonable expectation that characters will encounter a lot of unpleasantness. Besides, a good blurb will generally indicate the type of content you can anticipate.

Erin: I agree. Mental illness and cutting also play a big role in your story. How did you bring this to the page in such a humane way? Did you research them and/or asylums?

Jennifer: Mental illness is a running thread in a lot of my work because of its impact on various family members and myself (having dysthymia as well as generalized and social anxiety disorders). When you’re dealing with it first-hand, it’s easier to approach it in a more humane way, I think. You know how you’ve been treated and how others treat you. I’ve had family members in psych wards too, so I have had the opportunity to see that world in person. A lot of Mara’s time there came from my sister’s experience both as a patient and as a psychiatric nurse.

Erin: How did you intertwine the themes of mental illness with legend and paranormal so that the reader is never quite sure what’s the truth? Was it plotted out and you created each link, or did it simply spill out of you stream of conscious? It certainly felt like we were in her confused mind.

Jennifer: I honestly didn’t make a conscious effort to create an unreliable narrator in Mara, so it was a happy accident that it all turned out the way it did. Once I realized what was happening, I just tried to get out of my own way and not overthink it. I’ve never been much of a plotter, so it was fun to discover ways I could link the paranormal with both mental illness and quantum mechanics as I was writing.

Erin: I am a pantser too, not a plotter. I love to see where the mind takes us as wrtiers. Your imagery was unique and unnerving. Was it your intent to make the reader as uncomfortable and confused as your protagonist? Why?

Jennifer: Yes. (Laughs.) I love the idea that we never truly know the nature of reality, which is unnerving in itself. A lot of the imagery from Shinto can be pretty unsettling to Western audiences, so I used that as much as possible to set the scene. I researched some of Japan’s paranormal hotspots and incorporated imagery from those as well, like the ruins of Nakagusuku Hotel on Okinawa.

Nakagusuku_Kogen_Hotel_ruins

Nakagusuki Hotel Abandoned / Wiki

Erin: You don’t particularly write HEA endings, but do you feel this ending, without spoilers, was full of sadness and gloom or calming in its own way? For some reason I sort of felt the latter. How do you feel overall about writing endings in horror?

Jennifer: I think of it as calming, too. I like to imagine that Mara is existing as happily as she can in that state of being. In general, I feel that “unhappy” endings are more realistic, especially in horror, but as with Conduits, the definition of that is open to interpretation.

Erin: You’ve described yourself as a more literary writer (I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere), what does that mean to you and to readers? What is the difference in literary horror from other labels?

Jennifer: For me, it means that I love playing with language and exploring the human condition. I think the latter is fairly common in horror, but I remember Gary Braunbeck once talking about his dislike of “pedestrian” writing, and it’s the same for me. How you tell a good story is as important as the story itself. Anyone can tell a story, but not everyone can do it with craft.

Erin: Gary has a lot of good thoughts like this! That’s VERY true and something most people just don’t understand. I also read you think that horror lends itself well to shorter works. I love that because I feel the same way. I love to write and read shorter horror works. But can you explain why?

Jennifer: It can be hard to maintain the kind of tension horror requires over the length of a novel, without a lot of it feeling like filler. I’ve read—and you probably have, too—quite a few novels where you can tell the author was padding it to reach a certain word count. And that just saps the tension for me. I think Thomas Hobbes’ concept of life as “nasty, brutish and short” really applies well to horror fiction, too.

Erin: What’s next for you in terms of writing? What are you working on now?

Jennifer: A lot of new short fiction (of course!), and I’ll be starting my PhD work in Creative Writing next September, so I’ll finally be working on a new novel. I’m already contracted to appear in four anthologies next year—hopefully more on the way! And maybe another novella…

Erin: How do you feel about the market and the genre currently?

Jennifer: I think it’s a great time to be a horror writer, and I hope this boom continues. There are so many talented writers finally getting the recognition they deserve (like Nathan Ballingrud, who deserves it more than just about anyone).

Erin: Where can readers find Conduits and you?

Jennifer: You can buy Conduits from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

I’m on Facebook, Instagram, and occasionally Twitter.

My personal site is http://jennifertloring.com.

Erin: Thanks so very much for stopping by to talk to me! Feel free to come back anytime. I enjoyed my experience reading Conduits.

Jennifer: Thank you for having me! It’s been fun. 😊

About Conduits

ConduitsMara is a Japanese-American girl with a history of personal tragedy. Though she still cuts herself to quell the pain, she thought the worst was behind her. But her boyfriend’s sudden death, and a visit to one of the most haunted places in Washington State, sends her into a spiral of madness, landing her in a psychiatric ward.

Already suffering from dreams of a strange, ghost-infested house in the woods, Mara begins to question the very existence of reality. She is forced to confront the truth about her older sister’s death and the reason the ghosts have chosen her as their conduit.

“An evocative journey into the darkest realms of a troubled psyche. Part ghost story, part psychological suspense…” —Tim Waggoner, author of The Way of all Flesh

Jennifer Loring, Biography –

Jennifer LoringJennifer received her MFA from Seton Hill University’s program in Writing Popular Fiction, with a concentration in horror fiction. In 2013, she won first place in Crystal Lake Publishing’s inaugural Tales from the Lake horror writing competition, which found her published alongside her mentor Tim Waggoner in the anthology of the same name. DarkFuse released her psychological horror/ghost story novella Conduits in September 2014 (which was re-released by Lycan Valley Press in 2019); her debut novel, Those of My Kind, was published by Omnium Gatherum in May 2015. She has since appeared in anthologies alongside some of the biggest names in horror, including Graham Masterton, Joe R. Lansdale, Ramsey Campbell, Steve Rasnic Tem, and Clive Barker. In addition, Jennifer has presented her academic horror research at StokerCon 2018 in Providence, RI, the International Vampire Film and Arts Festival (IVFAF) in Sighisoara, Romania in 2018, and NecronomiCon in Providence in 2019.

Jennifer lives with her husband in Philadelphia, PA, where they are owned by two basset hounds and a turtle. She is currently at work on a number of projects, including more short fiction.

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Thanks for joining us today to learn about Jenn!

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Filed under Book Reviews, Q and A with Authors, women in horror

Interview/Review: Talking with Duncan Ralston about Ghostland, Theme Parks, and Food. #horror #hauntings #amusementparks

I’m really excited today to introduce you to my friend, the Candian author Duncan Ralston, and if you already know him, then you can learn more about his journey to creating his newest book, Ghostland! In full disclaimer, D is one of my closest friends, but my friends know, I won’t go bananas on your work unless you’ve proved it warranted (also, yes I know D is allergic to bananas – but he can have my virtual screaming bananas!). So though we are friends, I suppose it’s his creativity and personality that drew me to him in our friendship, and so in that vein, I also enjoy his story ideas and his written pieces. There is no bias here, I just really want you all to get to know his mind and to experience Ghostland. Ghostland is like nothing I’ve read this year, and really, maybe ever. I fully enjoyed it. So I hope you’ll take my review and recommendation for what it is and then enjoy the interview below – you’ll learn a lot and probably laugh along with us as well.

Ghostland Duncan Ralston

Ghostland, Spoiler-Free Review –

I read a lot of horror, and especially over the years reading slush, editing books, promoting books in horror, I tend to start to see same plots and themes and characters emerging. Not with Ghostland. It’s totally unique. I think I really appreciated that freshness this year. That creative juice and the bravery to go outside the box. I have to say it’s the best book in the genre I read all year and I’m so thrilled I got to read an early copy. It gave me entertainment and fun in a read that I was really desiring and didn’t even know it. I was beginning to go outside other genres again to feel through reading what I needed. I can’t even think of what category it belongs in – it’s too entertaining, but also not in a corny way. It’s coming of age, but not in a melancholy way. It’s scary but not in an atmospheric paranormal way. It’s PURE FUN.

It’s for adults – it’s terrifying in parts – so don’t get me wrong, it’s horror. It reminded me a bit of tv shows American Horror Story’s Murder House and Channel Zero, but it features two young protagonists. I love how he used this viewpoint of characters of a younger age (seniors in high school) without it being strictly YA. I love that he utilizes the male and female friend relationship as well – and how much depth he created in the characters. I could feel their emotions and was both sad and hopeful, as well as understood the pain and love that shone through. the bits of humor. You can have all that in adventure horror novels too and Duncan pulled it off well. Duncan does a great job with characters in his other books and here it’s no different. He delivers psychological themes but easily dispersed throughout the story. I could relate to the subjects of illness and death, walls and trauma, forgiveness. He creates the sort of intermediary/host as the psychiatrist which also worked really well too I thought. He has heart within a story that is mainly an action-filled journey at the most amazing horror theme park in the world.

What’s not to love?

He writes thrillers, he writes ghost stories, he writes horror stories, he integrates virtual reality in a cool way, and he seems to have easily rolled all that up together in this bundle of entertainment called Ghostland. You’re going to hear a lot about Ghostland, I’m sure. His marketing plan was dynamic and bold. I could talk often about it and it can be an example to a lot of indie authors. It should be nominated for awards and noticed for its innovation as well as its well-written prose, for its creative ideas and description, and for its character development.

There is interactive fun too – within the book on Kindle you can click to learn about the ghosts and attractions this way. On the print, you can read about the attractions in the back. There’s a park map. What other books in horror are penned with an innovative experience inside in which you can click and learn more on each haunted locale or ghost you encounter along with the characters at the park? He even goes the extra mile and has an AR technology component for print buyers. And all the attractions are so neat and cool!! (And scary!!) A haunted lighthouse (check), a pirate ship (check), a circus (check). I’m feeling happy with just those, but there was so much more.

If you haven’t read this book, you’ll need to get your tickets soon because the park is open and they can use all hands on deck to keep the ghosts inside. This would make a great gift for someone for the holidays along with a Ghostland t-shirt! People who enjoy video games from teens (who might read some dark fiction) to adults will especially like the virtual game component of this novel.

So much to love. Buy it today.

Without further rambling, here is our interview:

Interview, Duncan Ralston –

Hi, D! Welcome to my Oh, for the Hook of a Book! site. I’m excited to talk to you today about your newest endeavor, a novel and interactive experience called GHOSTLAND! I got up early and baked a carrot cake AND we have the entire cake to ourselves, so have a seat in the big comfy chair in my library and I’ll be right in with some giant slices. Also, what would you like to drink? Rye and Diet Coke? I’m figuring on it, so I’ll go ahead and pour. I think I’ll opt for a hot rum toddy myself.

Carrot_cake_1

Duncan: Hey, E! Thanks for having me! Man, that carrot cake smells good. Is that cream cheese icing?? Yum yum! And yes, Rye and Diet Coke, of course.

Erin: Let me just set this all down on the coffee table and we can enjoy while we talk. Just don’t get any crumbs in my cushions! Later, we can move to the dining table for dinner. If it was much warmer, we could sit out back and eat under the trees, but you know, it’s just a bit too cold in Ohio now. I’m sure you’ve had similar weather in Toronto?

Duncan: Been warmer and drizzly the past little bit, but I can’t complain. At least it’s warm inside.

Erin: I don’t have any heat on. Don’t take off your hat and gloves! I’m kidding. (I set the tray on the table). Let me take your hat and coat. It’s all cozy here. (I walk over and hang the coat on the rack, put gloves in pocket). Help yourself to your drink and cake, and I’ll start the questions or the masses will get hungry and want cake too!

I know that everyone asks this question, so bear with me since some of my subscribed audience is a bit all over in terms of readership and genres and probably need something to start with. What IS Ghostland about and where did you get your inspiration?

Duncan: Ghostland is about two former best friends reconnecting over a mutual love of horror. The setting is a theme park where the exhibits are actual haunted places and objects. It’s clear from the start things aren’t quite right at this theme park – are the ghosts real or VR? And if they are real, are they being held captive? That element plays a big part in the proceedings once the park tech goes haywire, freeing all of the ghosts on the unsuspecting guests.

I drew a lot of inspiration from my love of Stephen King’s books, particularly in my youth. The teenage protagonists are horror fans, like I was (and still am). I like to think of this book as The Shining meets Jurassic Park, though it has elements of a lot more than just those two books. Several readers have correctly pointed to the 2000 remake of Thirteen Ghosts. But those two books were the biggest inspirations for Ghostland, aside from horror video games, which I still love to play when I get a chance.

Jurassic park 2.jpg

Erin: What type of reader is Ghostland for – adults only? Does it appeal to YA readership? It’s a ton of fun with ghosts, but how extreme is it? Is it for seasoned readers of horror only or what other types of readers might try it?

Duncan: It would definitely have appealed to me as a kid. It is a tad darker than standard YA, although from what I’ve been hearing YA horror is taking more risks these days and adding more dark content. The main protagonists are in their late teens, just about to head off to college. But the story is adult-oriented. I think that’s an age most of us can recall relatively clearly. High school and those first few years of setting off on our own path seemed to be burned into the psyche of most adults. It also deals with finding your own path and discovering what you want to do with your life, coming of age, finding and pushing your limits, childhood trauma, etc.

Erin: Yes, YA horror reads quite a lot darker these days. I mean there even IS YA horror. I love that it encompassed all those themes.

Working in marketing for many years, I was quite intrigued by your plan to set the stage for social media users to create excitement for the book. Can you tell us the backstory to Rex Garrote and your short prequel story The Moving House? If readers missed out on that early fun, can you tell them about it?

Duncan: Rex Garrote – and let’s be clear, he is not a real person – is the main antagonist/Big Bad in Ghostland. He was a semi-famous horror author from the late’1970s to the late-’90s, when he took his own life. In my media campaign I pretended Garrote was an author whose work I grew up with – but nobody else remembered. I can’t recall why I settled on this idea, though it seemed to spark people’s imaginations and curiosity.

It was good fun pretending Garrote was a real person. Most people who were initially fooled seemed to enjoy it as well. The only problem is the book I “remembered” became the focus of the campaign – and though I was planning to write The House Feeds at some point, the demand for it means I’ll likely have to write it sooner rather than later.

“The Moving House” is a ghost story on a smaller scale. The creator of Ghostland‘s tech, Sara Jane Amblin, and the current owner of Garrote House, Christopher Hedgewood, enter the house for the last time prior to moving it to the Ghostland park grounds. It’s their first time being there at night. Things do not go well for them.

Read about Rex Garrote here.

Erin: If you’re using the Kindle app to read, you have a great interactive built-in in which you can click in certain spots and read more about the apparitions and such. How do you think this has added to people’s experiences and how much fun did you have creating that within the book? Do print readers miss out or how does that work?

Duncan: Quite a few readers (and reviewers) have mentioned that they enjoyed the semi-interactive elements of the book a fair bit. I based the idea off of the Thirteen Ghosts DVD, which had backstories on the ghosts within the movies. Originally I’d woven these backstories within the narrative, but they were killing the flow of the story. I came up with the idea of doing them as a clickable “guide” much later on and wasn’t even sure if I had the ability to do such a thing. With some research and a bit of help from fellow writers, I figured it all out and I think it worked out about as well as it could have given my budget and technical skills, or lack thereof.

Print users lose out on the clickable aspect, but the guide is still within the book, as endnotes. One thing print readers get that ebook readers don’t is the “Interactive Ghostland AR Experience.” If you scan the QR code found within the paperback, you will be able to see the cover in Augmented Reality. There’s a fun surprise there which ties into the novel, since the park uses a more sophisticated form of the technology for guests to see the ghosts.

There’s also the companion website, which is as much a guide to Ghostland as it is a story in itself. This will tie into future releases within the Ghostland universe.

Erin: Are all the ghosts and attractions made-up in your book or are any real or based on something or someone real? Did you have to do any research?

Duncan: Most of them are made up. Some are inspired by “true” ghost stories. A few “real” ghosts are mentioned in passing. I don’t want to spoil which is which. But there are a few you might have spotted from some of my other stories – those are definitely not real.

Erin: What was your favorite ghost or attraction you created?

Duncan: I said in another interview that my favorite ghost is Morton Welles, a mental patient from the 1900s who was psychic driven by his psychiatrist to become a sort of sleepwalking murderer called the “Bright Falls Zombie,” like the old German expressionist movie The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. I’ll stick with him for now.

calgari

Erin: The friendship between your two main teen characters was very real and very meaningful, even though this was a book seeped in entertainment. Do you feel teens will relate and not mind the horror? Furthermore, do you feel adults can relate and why? You have strong character development, why do you feel that’s important to the reader?

Duncan: I feel like without interesting characters, there’s no reason for me to care about what happens to them, as a reader and a writer. It’s one of the reasons I don’t tend to like a lot of slasher horror – in many of them, the main characters are unlikable, interchangeable teens.

I try to make sure my stories are grounded in reality and a lot of that comes from using things I’ve experienced in my own life as the heart of my main characters. From Ben’s health problems to Lilian’s anxiety about her future, these are things I’ve experienced in my life and many people have as well. I’m not sure people need to identify with characters to appreciate them – but we have to at least understand their wants and needs on some level. I hope that comes through in the book but you never know.

Erin: How did you come up with your character of the psychiatrist that accompanies the teens to the park. Why was she, without spoilers, a key component to your story?

Duncan: I’ve been interested in psychology since I was quite young. I knew early on there needed to be an intermediary with Ben and Lilian. Originally this character was a funeral director obsessed with Garrote House (one of the major exhibits), who acted as a chaperone because they were too young to attend on their own. When I bumped their ages up I thought it would be interesting to deal a bit with PTSD, which Lilian suffers from after having been on headset with Ben while he “died” for several minutes. His heart attack caused them to drift apart. I knew she wouldn’t go to Ghostland without a fight, so Dr. Allison Wexler insists she consider it “exposure therapy” and Lilian goes along with it partly out of spite and partly to show up her therapist.

I think that’s as far as I can say without getting further into spoiler territory. But Dr. Wexler is there out of professional curiosity. She’s concerned about her patient but she also believes long-term exposure to Ghostland‘s Augmented-Reality technology could potentially be harmful to the psyche.

Erin: Did you consider reconstructing it into a YA? If so, why did you decide against that?

Duncan: One of the major reasons I decided against it is that the YA community has started to eat itself alive. I didn’t want to put myself and my work under that sort of scrutiny, especially considering some of my previous books. “Ghostland, the new YA horror novel from the author of Woom.” Probably wasn’t going to fly. (If you’re wondering, Woom was my relatively successful foray into “extreme horror.”)

Also, I intended this to be a book any fan of horror could enjoy. Since I don’t personally read a lot of YA it didn’t make sense to me to write it as YA.

Erin: Your cover is also beautifully done by Dean Samed. He’s a great artist and I’m in love with the cover. Do you feel it captured your book well besides drawing reader’s attention?

Duncan: I really do. It pops. It’s enticing. It’s different. I mean, how many hot-pink horror covers have you seen recently? But it also creates a sense of mystery. How did this haunted house get stuck among these theme park rides? The lights blazing from the windows imply something mysterious and possibly supernatural inside. And the teens standing on the threshold, about to enter – it could go anywhere from there.

Erin: You also had a logo and park map done (which you haven’t showed off enough in my opinion) and there are t-shirts, mugs, stickers, and such. Does this add to the overall experience for readers? It’s almost like you’ve created a real theme park! Tell us about that and where to get some items.

Duncan: That’s exactly why I did it! Like the Rex Garrote character, I wanted the theme park to feel like it could be the real deal. I wasn’t just writing one novel; I’m creating a fictional world where ghosts have been proven real and everyone is having to deal with that fact. It’s still relatively new and some people haven’t accepted it and others can’t fit it into their world view. There are people seeing the proof of the afterlife as a chance to get off the ride. They’re starting to teach kids about death in fifth grade health class. I could lie and say I meant this as a metaphor for some real-life crisis, but I didn’t at all. I just tried to imagine how our own world would deal with the news. A lot of people believe ghosts exist but if they could see them? If they could prove it? It would fundamentally change how most of us perceive death. And what it means to be alive. I just thought there was so much I could do with that concept, why limit it to just one book?

Check those out here.

Erin: Let’s head over to the table and I’ll pull out the fajitas I left warming under cover and eat. I’m starved. You must be after traveling all the way from Canada! Off topic, as I set the table, but have you ever thought of doing a world book tour and what that would be like (if dreams could come true)?

Duncan: Love me some fajitas. Can’t wait.

The idea of a book tour in general doesn’t appeal to me very much for several reasons. The first is, what happens if nobody shows up? That would be mortifying. The second is, I’m weird about praise. A roomful of people there just for me – I appreciate people reading my books but it seems like something I wouldn’t like very much.

I would like to go to some conventions in the future, just to meet and greet fellow writers and readers. But I’d rather go as a fan than a guest.

Erin: It would be cool to set a book signing in haunted locations set around a map though, wouldn’t it? I’m full of ideas. Of course, you’d need a sponsor to pay for it. But you never know? A & E Channel? Ghost Hunters? Ha!

What has been your favorite part about writing and launching Ghostland? What has been the most challenging?

Duncan: Aside from writing the book, which took two years off and on – and was both the most fun part and the hardest – I really enjoyed making the website. It was a ton of work but I feel like it was worth the effort. It’s something that will function just as well for further novels in the Ghostland universe.

Erin: Ghostland would make a really good movie, but probably an even better episodic tv show. It reminds me a bit of Channel Zero and American Horror Story’s Murder House with its own twist of course. You work behind the scenes in TV, so this must have crossed your mind! How would that go?

Duncan: Thank you for saying so! I’ve been considering what I would do with it if I wanted to adapt it – how much I would have to cut for it to work as a film, how much I’d have to stretch it or restructure it to work as a TV series or miniseries. I think it would work best as a miniseries, though I could easily see the story going beyond the Ghostland park – as I intend to with the books. The perfect situation would be a blockbuster, 2 ½-hour movie of the events in the book, followed by a sequel series. Maybe a tie-in, open-world video game, as well.

Yeah, I guess you could say I’ve thought about this a bit. 😉

Erin: Without spoilers can you entice readers with something about some of the attractions? What are they? Who are they? How did they get there?

Duncan: They’ve all been meticulously disassembled down to moveable pieces and reassembled in Ghostland, from all over America. There’s a prison, an asylum, Garrote House, a haunted lighthouse, a farmhouse, a Wild West ghost town, a circus, a funhouse, a pirate ship… virtually anything you can imagine. There are yachts and cars and smaller objects like cursed mirrors and snow globes. Some of them are “possessed,” others are haunted by poltergeists, revenants, all kinds of spirits.

Erin: I just love that concept and how you did that. So creative.

Let’s talk about amusement parks, carnivals, piers of fun like Coney Island in New York. I love them all and have been obsessed with this type of thing for as long as I can remember. I still get giddy if I see a giant Ferris Wheel (did recently at the National Harbor in D.C.). I’m a sucker for these things. What sorts of things (actual places, books, movies, stories…) in this theme do you like (besides Ghostland of course, which I heard is in Maryland on my route to D.C. in fact, so I’ll have to be stopping by *wink*)?

Duncan: When I was little we went to the Canadian National Exhibition. I remember this vividly, though some of it may be embellished by kid me’s fertile imagination. There used to be a large exhibit just called the Carlsberg Haunted House, I think. Presented by the beer company. Free admission. In the same building where Medieval Times is now. It was a huge haunted house with animatronic monsters, paintings whose eyes moved, all kinds of cool stuff like that. I remember being terrified by everything, but the eyes in the painting (I think it was a red devil) followed me into a recurring nightmare. From then on I was hooked, but I didn’t know it yet.

I love funhouses. I love the games, even though most of them are rigged. I love the smell of caramel corn and hot dogs and french fries. I don’t do a lot of rides – motion sickness – but I have been known to enjoy the Ferris wheel.

Capital_Wheel_at_National_Harbor,_Maryland,_USA_(Lit_Up_at_Night).jpg

National Harbor, Washington D.C.  By MamaGeek – CC BY-SA 4.0, WikiMedia

Erin: As I shove my mouth full of food, what is your favorite amusement park delight? 😀

Duncan: If you mean to eat, I love anything deep fried that shouldn’t be deep fried. If you mean exhibits or rides, I’m a sucker for a good haunted house. Even the corny kids’ ones.

Erin: Of course I meant food silly! It’s me. Haha!! I like fried cheese and French fries and elephant ears and…oh, were we talking…haha!

The launch of Ghostland, and how quickly you pulled that all off, must have exhausted you. How do you begin to recover and keep marketing and remotely think of writing something new?

Duncan: If you’d asked me that a month ago I would have told you it wasn’t possible. But here I am writing yet another new novel, ready to do it all over again.

Well, probably not all of it. I think I’ll skip the brand-new website/viral campaign this time around. It was a solid month of work, around my day job. Also, I don’t think it would make sense for this book. It’s a more personal story, along the lines of my first novel, Salvage. Folk horror, I guess would be the best way to describe it. I’m hoping to release that as early as February and will probably start writing The House Feeds immediately after.

Or maybe I’ll take a few weeks off of novels and write a couple of short stories. I might be due to release a third collection.

Erin: Yes, yes, and yes! Can’t wait!

You’ve written a gamut of types of books from extreme horror to thrillers and suspense to crime to a ghost story as well as multiple screenplays. Now, Ghostland is another notch that is just a tiny bit different from everything else. How do you please constant fans this way or do you not? Do you just write what comes or what you like or is there a plan?

Duncan: I never really have or had a plan up until recently, and even now it’s kind of a loose plan as to where I want to go with my writing. My ultimate goal is to keep getting better at what I do. Tell better stories. Learn from every book and every misturn in the road.

I’ve always written what feels right at the time. It may not always have been right for my “career.” If anybody would have told me that writing an extreme horror novel for British author Matt Shaw (Monster, Next Door) was going to be what propelled me to another level in the horror business, I would have told them they were crazy. I just wrote Woom to challenge myself. Somehow, it became one of my most successful books.

After that I wrote a small crime-thriller called Wildfire. Just two women with dark secrets fighting over the well-being of a young boy. Then I put out my second collection, Video Nasties. Then a horror-thriller for Kindle Press, The Method (which won the Kindle Scout contest). Then another crime-thriller, this one an adaptation of A Christmas Carol in which Ebenezer Scrooge is the alias of a hired hitman working for the Bleak House Syndicate. It’s my least successful book overall – I think I’ve sold maybe twenty copies – but I enjoyed it and I think it’s a good story.

Writing in any new genre is going to be a gamble if you’re an indie. I knew that. But these were stories that called to me at the time. I’ve found it’s not wise to ignore those urges. You’ll end up blocked.

method

Erin: Absolutely! And I love most all of those. I don’t know why your Ebenezer book doesn’t sell better – what a novel idea and I know so many people enjoy A Christmas Carol and all its many adaptations. Do you hear that fellow Dickens’ Christmas Carol and thriller readers? Go buy this now! Tis the season!

That makes me afraid to ask you what’s next for you, but if you have any cool tidbits on back titles or screenplays, or something cool you’re thinking about in the works, please share with us!

Duncan: I’m going to put screenplays on the back burner for a while. I don’t think I’ll write another unless I’m getting paid to.

Up next for me, in no particular order: The Midwives, the folk-horror story I mentioned, in early 2020. Hopefully The House Feeds (under the Rex Garrote pen name) and Ghostland 2 in 2020 as well. There will be a third collection of horror and thrillers, which will likely feature a return to the world of Video Nasties. A spiritual sequel to Woom, set in the Lonely Motel. And I’ve also been tinkering with a coming of age serial killer novella. We’ll see how that goes.

Erin: Where can everyone find all the scoop and fun on Ghostland from websites to purchase links?

Duncan: You can find everything at https://www.duncanralston.com/ghostland.

Erin: I know also on the homepage of your site at that link, readers can sign-up for your newsletter too. I enjoy it and I highly recommend! THANK YOU so much for coming over and letting me haunt you with questions. You know I loved Ghostland and always love to talk about it. Now we can relax and hang out. If there was a Ghostland video game, we could play it. 😊 I also just realized we had dessert first before dinner. Haha!

Duncan: Thanks for having me over, Erin! Always a pleasure chatting with you. And as for dessert before dinner, that’s a perk of being an adult, isn’t it?

YOU WANT YOUR COPY OF GHOSTLAND RIGHT?

Ghostland Duncan RalstonHere’s the synopsis –

People are dying to get in. The exhibits will kill to get out.

Be first in line for the most haunted theme park in the world – GHOSTLAND! Discover and explore hundreds of haunted buildings and cursed objects! Witness spectral beings of all kinds with our patented Augmented Reality glasses! Experience all the terror and thrills the afterlife has to offer, safely protected by our Recurrence Field technology! Visit Ghostland today – it’s the hauntedest place on earth!

________

After a near-death experience caused by the park’s star haunted attraction, Ben has come to Ghostland seeking to reconnect with his former best friend Lilian, whose post-traumatic stress won’t let her live life to the fullest. She’s come at the behest of her therapist, Dr. Allison Wexler, who tags along out of professional curiosity, eager to study the new tech’s psychological effect on the user.

But when a computer virus sets the ghosts free and the park goes into lockdown, the trio find themselves trapped in an endless nightmare.

With time running short and the dead quickly outnumbering the living, the survivors must tap into their knowledge of horror and video games to escape… or become Ghostland’s newest exhibits.

Featuring an interactive “Know Your Ghosts” guide and much more, Ghostland is over 400 pages of thrills and terror!

Oh – and also, keep an eye on Ghostland’s Restoration Project website.

Get your copy HERE today! It’s available in e-book (and for a short time on Kindle Unlimited) and in paperback or D’s website. Enjoy the ride!

Duncan Ralston, Biography –

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Author photo copyright Josh Silver, 2015

“Intelligent, character-driven horror tales.” – Bram Stoker Award-winning author Jack Ketchum’s review of Gristle & Bone.

Duncan Ralston was born in Toronto and spent his teens in small-town Ontario. As a “grownup,” Duncan lives with his wife in Toronto, where he writes dark fiction about the things that frighten, sicken, and delight him. His work has been reviewed in Scream: the Horror Magazine, Cultured Vultures and Daily Dead. In addition to his twisted short stories found in GRISTLE & BONE and VIDEO NASTIES, he is the author of the novels SALVAGE, THE METHOD and GHOSTLAND, and the novellas WILDFIRE, WOOM, and EBENEZER.

Duncan’s influences include (but are not limited to): Stephen King, Clive Barker, Richard Matheson, Harlan Ellison, Jack Ketchum, Roald Dahl, Irvine Welsh, Chuck Palahnuik, and Bret Easton Ellis.

He runs the small press Shadow Work Publishing, which has published the writing of Jack Ketchum, Wrath James White, Jeff Strand, William Malmborg, The Sisters of Slaughter, Glenn Rolfe, and many others.

Thanks for joining us! Please share!

_______________________

Note:

I was given an early draft of Ghostland and an updated version from the author.

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National Poetry Month: Sara Tantlinger Brings Us Poem on the 1893 World’s Fair and a Discussion on Involvement of Serial Killer H.H. Holmes #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry

Natl Poetry Month pen

April is National Poetry Month and because I write, read, and love poetry, I’m featuring poetry on my site this month! You’ll find poetry, articles, reviews, and more by writers I admire and adore, and also some new poetry writers as well, so stop by often. Tuesday, Bram Stoker Award winning poet Marge Simon brought us a wonderful article called “Illumination Dark Poetry” with various examples of her poetry, which you can find here and yesterday we read some samples from Bram Stoker Award winning dynamo, Stephanie Wytovich, which you can enjoy here.

Today, Sara Tantlinger joins us with a poem from her Bram Stoker Award nominated recent collection The Devil’s Dreamland, which features poems surrounding serial murderer H.H. Holmes. We are able to read the poem below as well as a discussion by Sara about the themes and locale of the piece – the 1893 World’s Fair – and H.H. Holmes and his involvement in it. As some of my historical fiction friends know, I am a World’s Fair and carnival fanatic. I love anything revolving around it!! Mix that with my obsession with true crime, you’re making me shiver in delight. That means I really enjoyed Sara’s poem and article – I hope you do too!

Thanks, Sara!

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An H.H. Holmes Poem Analysis
by Sara Tantlinger, author of The Devil’s Dreamland

Thank you so much to Erin for hosting some poetry fun on her website for National Poetry Month! I am excited to contribute with a poem from The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes, and to provide a little backstory and history on the poem. The piece is titled “World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago World’s Fair)”, referencing the very fair that helped make serial killer H.H. Holmes famous.

Without further ado, please enjoy the poem!

World’s Columbian Exposition (Chicago World’s Fair)

1893, we celebrate the 400th anniversary

of the barbaric slaughtering

Christopher Columbus brought

unto a new world,

but you will find no anger

toward his history here

as the fairgrounds take form, as visitors

flock in droves to taste the excitement

flickering in the air like pixie dust

 

People keep dying,

workers falling from buildings

accidents in the form of skull

fractures and electrocution

all this death contained within

designing the great fair,

 

yet a madman paces inside

his castle, creating spaces

where supposed accidents

will swallow visitors whole

 

a madman forges his dreams

into piping hot realities

where his World’s Fair Hotel

promises spectacular service

so very close to the fair itself

 

Opening Day comes upon the city

in jovial bursts of color,

mouthwatering scents of exotic

pastries and delicacies from themed

exhibits stationed around the park,

thousands of visitors holding their

breath for President Cleveland

to push a button that ignites

a hundred thousand

glowing lamps across the fields,

illuminating neoclassical figures,

the work of men named Tesla

and Westinghouse

 

Dr. Holmes turns away men at the door,

citing reasons of already being booked

to capacity, yet the young women

stroll right in, are welcomed,

intoxicated by their own freedom

blushing at the handsome doctor

who offers great prices,

who offers warm touches

 

they do not see how excitement alerts

trembles into his fingertips,

eager to taste innocence, summon

screeches from their tender tracheas

lick away saccharine death from dying lips,

listen to the snapping of a windpipe,

 

hungry to snuff out light from

wide eyes,

hungry to cut the lights open,

sever the heart to see how it beats

beneath such fine skin,

glowing like the thousand lamps

across the enchanted fairgrounds

(Originally published in The Devil’s Dreamland, StrangeHouse Books, 2018).

About the Poem –

The fair of 1893 was a magical time. The undertaking and thus construction of everything the fair needed to be successful was an exasperating project. I wanted the poem to reflect the enchantment this exposition offered. After all, people arrived in the thousands during the fair’s run – people from all across the globe. Over 20 million people ended up attending the fair altogether!

This was Chicago’s chance to show the world how beautifully they recovered from the Great Chicago Fire. Gone was the soot and wreckage of the fiery aftermath, and in its place stood a gleaming white city, warm and inviting. However, the poem also needed to honestly reflect what the fair organizers and architects didn’t want anyone to see….

1893 Worlds Fair

While the shine of the fair easily put forth its best face, a true darkness lingered beneath the food, exhibits, new buildings, rides, and everything else the celebration displayed. Construction workers died during the assembly of the fair. A fire broke out in July killing over a dozen fairgoers and firefighters. The White City was a fairytale. Outside the fair, animal corpses rotted on the streets. Stockyards and factories filled Chicago with smoke and filth. Garbage piled up along roads. Poverty and disease were no strangers here. And of course, a madman paced inside a castle fit for Bluebeard himself.

While it’s unlikely H.H. Holmes is responsible for hundreds of murders, he evolved into a tall-tale of someone who invited hundreds of women to stay at his hotel where he supposedly killed them all. This has never really been proven. While the fair showed great strides in science (like Tesla’s work), forensic evidence was not quite evolved enough to give us the solid facts we need to know everything Holmes might have done. However, we are quite sure he did take Minnie Williams and her sister Anna to the fair (I have more poems about their fates in my collection). So, for this piece, I took both fact and fiction, truths and exaggerated ideas, and spun them into a version that fits the Holmes of my book. Either way, this is one fair I think we should all be glad is far in the past.

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Sara Tantlinger, Biography –

Tantlinger_ap2019Sara Tantlinger resides outside of Pittsburgh on a hill in the woods. She is the author of Love For Slaughter and the Stoker-nominated The Devil’s Dreamland: Poetry Inspired by H.H. Holmes, both released with StrangeHouse Books. She is a poetry editor for the Oddville Press, a graduate of Seton Hill’s MFA program, a member of the SFPA, and an active member of the HWA.

Her debut novella, To Be Devoured, will be published in July 2019 with Unnerving. She embraces all things strange and can be found lurking in graveyards or on Twitter @SaraJane524 and at saratantlinger.com

The Devil’s Dreamland, Info –

The Devil's Dreamland full rezH.H. Holmes committed ghastly crimes in the late 19th century. Many of which occurred within his legendary “Murder Castle” in Chicago, Illinois. He is often considered America’s first serial killer.

In her second book of poetry from Strangehouse Books, Sara Tantlinger (Love For Slaughter) takes inspiration from accounts and tales which spawned from the misdeeds of one Herman Webster Mudgett, better known as Dr. Henry Howard Holmes. Fact and speculation intertwine herein, just as they did during the man’s own lifetime.

There’s plenty of room in the cellar for everyone in The Devil’s Dreamland.

“…chilling poetry…” —Linda D. Addison, award-winning author of “How to Recognize a Demon Has Become Your Friend” and HWA Lifetime Achievement Award winner

“…morbidly creative and profound crime documentary…one of the best works of horror poetry I’ve read in years.” —Michael Arnzen, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of Grave Markings and Play Dead

“…fascinating and absolutely riveting…powerful and vivid prose…will stay with you long after you’ve closed the book.”—Christina Sng, Bram Stoker Award-winning author of A Collection of Nightmares

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National Poetry Month: Poetry from Bram Stoker Award Winner Stephanie Wytovich #nationalpoetrymonth #poetry

April is National Poetry Month and because I write, read, and love poetry, I’m featuring poetry on my site this month! You’ll find poetry, articles, reviews, and more so stop by often. Yesterday, Bram Stoker Award winning poet Marge Simon brought us a wonderful article called “Illumination Dark Poetry” with various examples of her poetry, which you can find here.

Today, please enjoy some samples from Bram Stoker Award winning dynamo, Stephanie Wytovich. I dare you not to feel.

Thanks for sharing with us, Stephanie!

crescent moon

Surgical Fantasies of the Past Ten years
Originally Published in Yes, Poetry

I tattoo incision lines on my stomach,
dream about surgically removing my ugliness.

At sixteen, the girls put laxatives in my peppermint tea,
laughed at me in the mirror when I tried to scream away my calories.

At 26, I cried in the shower when my skin didn’t fall off,
vomited the memories of my ex telling me I was diseased.

Inside, my lungs are a crawl space filled with candy wrappers,
my ribs broken from too many bathroom breaks ending in blood.

There are 206 bones in the human body,
Tell me, how many are in a monster?

 

____

 

Emergency Masturbation Fantasy
Originally Published in Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare

I masturbate to an empty chair

My hand moving up and down

like yours never did

I try to see your face

Scream your name

But     I       can’t

And I wonder if you exist

If my memories are from photographs of people I never met

Whose stories I don’t know

I climax to your eyes

Taste the saliva on your lips

But       I           don’t

Because you’re an empty chair

And my box is broken

Like yours never was

I should stop blaming myself

Quit bleeding for sport

But       I           won’t.

 

___

 

Post-Traumatic Spiders
Originally Published in Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare

My doctor scribbled in her notepad,

“What do you want to talk about today?”

I was already crying

I ate all the cough drops on the table when she wasn’t looking

Her dog was asleep on my foot

I just left my one-night stand in the parking lot.

Frustration wore on her face like the foundation she forgot to wear

“Are the nightmares back?”

I spun my ring around my thumb

I thought about how you said I wore too much jewelry

I tongued the scar on the inside of my cheek

The tarantulas are everywhere.

Her right foot tapped against the carpeted floor

“You know it’s okay, right? That none of this is your fault?”

I didn’t believe her

I felt its legs crawling up my shoulder

I watched it watch me.

I could have stopped it. I could have said no.

 Fifty minutes passed like fifty seconds

“Same time again next Wednesday?

I nodded my head

I picked the spider off my cheek

I swallowed the web it had spun around my mouth

The silk tasted like semen and blood.

Stephanie M. Wytovich, Biography –

Wytovich Headshot_4Stephanie M. Wytovich is an American poet, novelist, and essayist. Her work has been showcased in numerous anthologies such as Gutted: Beautiful Horror Stories, Fantastic Tales of Terror, Year’s Best Hardcore Horror: Volume 2, The Best Horror of the Year: Volume 8, as well as many others.

Wytovich is the Poetry Editor for Raw Dog Screaming Press, an adjunct at Western Connecticut State University, Southern New Hampshire University, and Point Park University, and a mentor with Crystal Lake Publishing. She is a member of the Science Fiction Poetry Association, an active member of the Horror Writers Association, and a graduate of Seton Hill University’s MFA program for Writing Popular Fiction.

Her Bram Stoker Award-winning poetry collection, Brothel, earned a home with Raw Dog Screaming Press alongside Hysteria: A Collection of Madness, Mourning Jewelry, An Exorcism of Angels, and Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare. Her debut novel, The Eighth, is published with Dark Regions Press.

Follow Wytovich on her blog and on twitter @SWytovich​.

Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare is her most recent collection. Read about it here!

Sheet Music Front CoverSheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare, Info –

Roll the windows down, wipe the blood off your cheek, and turn the music up. Sheet Music to My Acoustic Nightmare by Stephanie M. Wytovich is a collection spattered with dirt and blood, sage and corpses. The poems inside are confessionals and dirges, their stories the careful banter of ghosts and sinners over tequila at the bar.

These pages hold the lyrics to the beautiful grotesque that Wytovich is known for, but here she writes with a raw honesty that we haven’t seen from her before. This new direction takes readers to hospital rooms and death beds, shows the mask that was skinned off her face time and time again. There’s a brutality to her lines that cuts with the same knife she fantasized about it, her blood and tears mixed in with stanzas as she talks about suicide and abuse, heartbreak and falling in love.

Written during a time when the road was her home, these poems were sung under the stars and screamed in the woods, carved into trees. They are broken bottles and cigarette butts, stale coffee and smeared lipstick, each its own warning, a tale of caution.
Listen to them carefully.

They very well might save your life.

Find it on GoodReads to Add or Buy.

Stop back tomorrow for a post from Sara Tantlinger. Then, join us next week when we highlight a bunch more wonderful poetry. Have a great week!

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Read My Free Flash Fiction: “A Mother’s Hope”

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I just wanted o share with you my flash fiction story published in January for the Ladies in Horror Fiction photo prompt project. I was given this above photo with a gargoyle! Set in the 1930s, challenging myself to write a short in that setting was the most fun. However, the tale is of haunting and loss – you’ll see. Let me know what you think!

FREE to read HERE: “A Mother’s Hope”

Also…..

Women in Horror Writers: You can write your own flash prose or poem for my site as part of my #HookokWiHMx celebration. Just see Option 4 from my Women in Horror Month post yesterday! I look forward to reading your work!

Have a great weekend!

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10 Pieces of My Writing from 2018! And 8 That You Can Read for FREE!

Hi Friends!

Coming off the heels of the end of 2017 bringing about my debut poetry and fiction collection Breathe. Breathe., and contributor stories in the anthologies of Hardened Hearts and Project Entertainment’s My Favorite Story, I found myself writing even more in 2018! So what did 2018 bring in terms of my creative writing….

Not only did I finish, with paper and pencil of course, my next poetry-only collection (which will be in the typing and editing stages for early 2019), but I wrote many stand alone poems and stories for various magazines and projects, some which are already published and others which I’m working on submitting this year (I’ve already submitted two – fingers crossed!).

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Me trying to WRITE at the library with the crazy person pacing back and forth while rapping out loud to the music in his headphones! haha!

I wanted to share some of my writings from this year that are available for free at links below. A good portion are from a women in horror writing monthly challenge, which helped keep my juices flowing, so I have so much thanks for Nina D’Arcangela and her team for running this project and giving us a platform for our work.

I was also featured in several anthologies as a contributing author as well as a co-curating editor, and you’ll find more information on them at the links below too!

I want to remind people that some of these are horror or trend toward darker fiction, but some of them are fairytale, or fantasy, or just writings that anyone can read!

It was a strange year full of more personal and professional strife, changes, and issues – and most of all, some semblance of transformation. I don’t even know how I got done half of what I did! I appreciate so very much those who’ve continued to support me both personally and professionally, those that keep Breathe. Breathe. continuously alive online with reviews and praise, and to friends who’ve stood by me through it all. We live and learn who our friends are in this business, and what I’ve learned the hard way just might be fodder for a future dark fiction collection.

Read my Poetry and Short Stories FREE online at these links – 

Poetry:

ECFebruaryIssue-LOVE-ArtAmandaBergloff

Chained by Love” – Enchanted Conversation: A Fairytale Magazine, Feb. 2018 Issue. (Note: As far as I can tell this poem is also eligible for Rhysling nomination in the over 50 words category and I’d be honored for any SFPA members to take a look at it.)

A Land of Autumns” – SpillWords Press, Nov. 2018. 

Life’s Shadow” – Spreading the Writer’s Word, Ladies of Horror Flash Project, June 2018 (Note: Should be eligible for Rhysling)

Sacrificial Invitation” – Spreading the Writer’s Word, Ladies of Horror Flash Project, Nov 2018 (Note: Should be eligible for Rhysling)

Mummy Poetry – You can read two of my mummy poems right here on my own site! They were two of my favorite to write all year!

Short Stories:

Purple Hex Society” – Spreading the Writer’s Word, Ladies of Horror Flash Project, May 2018

The Witch’s Cottage” – Spreading the Writer’s Word, Ladies of Horror Flash Project, Oct. 2018

The Insistent Reporter” – Spreading the Writer’s Word, Ladies of Horror Flash Project, Dec. 2018

Anthologies:

dark voices cover

Cover by Luke Spooner

Wrapped in Battle” – Poetry, Dark Voices Anthology, Lycan Valley Press, July 2018. I dedicate this poem in memory and honor of all my female family and friends who’ve fought cancer, as the proceeds of the anthology go to breast cancer research organizations. This is an all-female anthology and I am so thrilled to be a part of it with so many other fabulous women dark fiction authors. My poem finishes up the collection. It’s currently available in print only, but should be available in e-book later this year.

Purchase – Amazon

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haunted are these houses

Haunted Are These Houses” – co-editor, Gothic Poetry and Short Fiction Anthology, Unnerving, Sept. 2018. I read almost 600 poetry and short story submissions as co-editor of this anthology, had the great honor of bringing in and editing Catherine Cavendish’s short story to it (she’s one of my favorite women authors in horror), and was in final, the poetry editor, curating the poetry selections from some of the finest poets in the dark fiction and horror communities such as Bruce Boston, Stephanie Wytovich, Sara Tantlinger, Christina Sng, and more.

Purchase – Amazon

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If you enjoy my work, I love hearing comments and thoughts! Thank you so much for supporting me in my work in 2018. I am looking forward to an even more productive 2019 with my writing – stay tuned for a post on that soon.

Warm wishes,

Erin

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Made by Women Giveaway – Happy October!

I know I have followers of all tastes on Oh, for the Hook of a Book! This promotion (and post) is for fans of horror, or honestly, more appropriately and importantly, fans of kick-butt women. Claire Holland published a book of poetry shortly after mine called I Am Not Your Final Girl, in which she wrote poems about final girls from slasher movies. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it’s the women in movies that make it to the end after an horrific ordeal and often earn retribution and find empowerment, much like the women fighting for so much today!! I really loved this collection!

Now, Claire is hosting a giveaway featuring my own dark poetry and short story collection, BREATHE. BREATHE., which also features strong women, Sara Tantlinger’s LOVE FOR SLAUGHTER, which takes a look at the horrors of love, and her own, I AM NOT YOUR FINAL GIRL.

You can read about the giveaway and see all that’s included, as in addition to our collections there are three movies as well (pictured below), by clicking over to the link to her blog, Razor Apple. As well, you can ENTER TO WIN on that post!

Click here—>

RAZOR APPLE BLOG – GIVEAWAY

Happy October 1. Let the games begin!

Erin

Made by Women Giveaway

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Guest Article: Kevin Lucia on Things You Need, from Clifton Heights Series

Hi everyone! Kevin Lucia stopped by with a guest article in conjunction with the release of his new novel from Crystal Lake Press, called THINGS YOU NEED (out Sept. 28, 2018), which is another release in his Clifton Heights world in the Adirondacks. I really love Kevin’s writing style as its unique and best described, I believe, as cosmic horror leaning very heavily towards quiet horror with a supernatural bent. As Mallory Heart Reviews said, “It creeps up on you with little tiny cat feet.” To me, that’s one of the best types of horror. With Clifton Heights, you can think of Stephen King building up his fictional town of Castle Rock, but as with that, all Kevin’s books have individual story lines. In Things You Need, it’s a collection of short stories with individual story lines as well from the town, and a wrap-around story that makes it even more interesting.

Lucia’s characters quite come alive off the page. Actually, I should say his character Gavin Patchett is the one here at Oh, for the Hook of a Book to talk to us, Lucia was just the facilitator! Patchett will tell us about his investigation into the closing of Blackfort Valley Sports Camp and some….well…interesting accidents that had occurred there, accounts of strange-eyed young men, and an eerie quiet that befalls at night….
Things You Need cover

That’s enough to have me intrigued, you? Let’s let Mr. Patchett take over for now, but this also foreshadows a free novella in the Clifton Heights world that will be out from Lucia around Halloween, called Long Night in the Valley.

***

Rest in Peace, Blackfoot Valley

After two decades of sitting in neglected ruin, Blackfoot Valley Sports Camp  – on Kipp Hill Road, just outside of Clifton Heights – is finally being laid to rest, some twenty years after its “death.” Looking back, I suppose its end was inevitable. Camp owner Jerry Ruben had quietly battled Multiple Sclerosis his entire adult life, though for most of his tenure as camp director, it had remained safely in remission. No one – not even his colleagues – knew of his condition.

His last three years of ownership, however, the MS reared its ugly head. Amidst growing complications, Jerry struggled to run the camp with his usual efficiency. Many folks say they remember how tired he seemed those last three years. Tired, distracted, and distant. He was far more than tired, of course.

He was dying.

And though no one knew it, Blackfoot Valley was slowly dying with him.

Something more than Jerry Rueben’s illness was brewing back then, however. Something changed at Blackfoot Valley after I last worked here as a counselor the summer of 1992. There were accidents, and deaths. Earlier this week I did some digging on the Internet. According to several archived articles of the Utica Times, I learned these accidents and deaths happened after a failed attempt to build more cabins in the woods behind camp.

Because even though he was dying of MS, Rueben was apparently attempting to expand his operation. His purpose seemed hazy at the time – enrollment at camp was falling, so there was no real need for more cabins – but the construction went ahead, regardless. Maybe because he was sick and fighting for something to hold on to, those around him conceded to his plans. He had the money, he wanted to expand…so why not?

Anyway, before reading those articles, I vaguely remembered hearing something about several bad accidents at Blackfoot Valley while I was away at Webb Community College. What I read in the articles shocked me, however. Apparently, over the course of two months, four workers mysteriously fell to their deaths in the small valley behind the cabins, Blackfoot Valley itself, the one from which the camp owes its name.

No one saw them fall. They were discovered in the morning before work, or at the end of the day, or after lunch, crumpled at the bottom of the valley, their necks broken. Officials couldn’t understand how they fell. The valley’s bottom was certainly filled with dangerous rocks, and the valley was deep enough for a fall to be fatal. But the newly constructed cabins were at least thirty feet from the valley’s edge. The workers had no call to come near the valley…at that time, anyway.

Apparently, there had been plans to construct steps and railings down into the valley, for some vague reason Jerry Rubin never clearly articulated. Something about a “nature walk” for a “different kind of summer camp” he was planning. I discovered exactly what kind of camp through my Internet digging.

According to several more archived articles I found, more deaths and accidents followed, even after the expansion was canceled. Again, four in all, also involving the valley behind camp in some way. The first incident involved Laura Mason, a junior from Utica-Rome. The next, Grace Williams, a local who had worked here as a counselor during Cross Country Camp. The last accident which happened while Blackfoot Valley was still in operation hammered the final “nail” into its coffin. Micah Cassidy – a counselor – saw a promising college basketball future destroyed, along with his knee.

That summer turned out to be Blackfoot Valley’s last as the camp many of us had all known and loved. In the off season, during my junior year of college, Jerry Ruben quietly sold Blackfoot Valley to an out-of-town buyer looking to run a summer “spiritual retreat for youth.” This is where, according to some other articles I’ve discovered, Jerry’s expansion plans could be traced. Before his MS had gotten too bad, Jerry had been in partnership with these out-of-town buyers. His plan had been to change the focus of the camp all along, to make it into a “different kind of summer camp.” What kind of “different” summer camp would become apparent soon enough.

Jerry died a year after the sale. Sometimes, in my crueler moments, I wonder if he died in shame over what he’d planned for Blackfoot Valley.

No one knew much about Blackfoot Valley’s new owners, nor did anyone know or understand Jerry’s motivations for partnering with them. They did little to engage the locals. Technically, Blackfoot Valley sits outside Clifton Heights town limits, so the new owners apparently dealt more with Webb County and not Clifton Heights. Under its new ownership, the camp wasn’t open to local youth. It billed itself as a “private spiritual retreat” and was planning on serving only privileged clientele from out of town.

Rumors spread from the very start that the new “spiritual retreat” was little more than a waystation for rich families to dump their kids. Folks in Clifton Heights whispered the camp itself had become a week-long celebration of decadent teenage vice. In the first few years of its new ownership, people reported driving by the camp late at night and hearing loud music and what sounded like an everlasting rave party. Folks also whispered about the strange-eyed young men – presumably camp counselors – who came into town to buy large quantities of liquor and beer during the weeks camp was operating.

According to the rumors, something changed about three years into Blackfoot Valley’s new ownership. The late-night parties ceased, as well as stories of hearing loud music and carousing. People spoke of an eerie quiet descending over the camp, especially at night. The strange-looking college boys still came into town for booze, but they seemed even stranger, and more distant, if that were possible.

That’s when the new stories began spreading. Ones a little more difficult to blame on hard feelings. Stories more fantastic, improbable, even implausible. The “spiritual retreat” at Blackfoot Valley had become a cult. Camp counselors led their charges in devil worship and orgies. And no one – down to the last person – had anything good to say about those vacant eyed, distant-looking college boys who came into town for booze. They acted strangely mechanical, it was said. As if they were pretending to be regular people and didn’t quite know how to act the part.

How credible are these stories?

Hard to tell. It’s tempting to chalk them up to free-floating resentment about Blackfoot Valley’s sale and Jerry Ruben’s apparent betrayal. For years, Blackfoot Valley Sports Camp was the northeast’s finest summer sports instruction camp, right in our backyard. Local sports legends – such as Micah Cassidy, Kevin Ellison, and Grace Matthews – had honed their skills here. Though I was never more than a seventh man at All Saints, I did also. When a shadowy out of town owner bought it in a deal apparently brokered by Ruben himself, Clifton Heights folks took it personal. I’d like to believe lingering bitterness accounted for most of those rumors.

Still.

The stories of those distant, strange-acting college boys makes me wonder. We get our share of drunken college guys from of our own Webb Community College, and nearby Utica State. Folks grumble about them incessantly, but in an affectionate, possessive way. They may be loud, obnoxious, disrespectful louts…but they’re our loud, obnoxious, disrespectful louts.

The way they talk about those camp counselors? No such affection. More like a barely repressed loathing, as if they’re holding back shivers as they speak of them.

In any case, because the camp’s suddenly cloistered state, and maybe also because of this repressed sort of revulsion for the new camp counselors, over the next three years Clifton Heights and all of Webb County entered in a willful denial of the camp’s continued existence. Slowly but surely, people did their best to banish it from their collective thoughts.

Eventually, those odd counselors stopped coming into town. I imagine folks wondered about that, but figured – and prayed – they’d decided to go elsewhere for their beer, like Old Forge or Whitelake. In any case, people talked less and less about the camp in the small valley outside town, until one day…

Someone drove by and discovered it abandoned. Upon further investigation, they also discovered the final body claimed by Blackfoot Valley. A middle-aged man named Charles Hogan. He’d grown up locally in Clifton Heights. After college he moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, where he lived until his only son tragically died. A year after his son’s death and a grueling divorce, he stopped coming into work and disappeared.

No one knew where to, until six months later his body was found stretched out in the overgrown grass of Blackfoot Valley’s courtyard. Coroners couldn’t determine a cause of death. Because of the corpse’s oddly preserved condition, they couldn’t determine the time of death, either. He could’ve lain there for hours, days….even weeks. Also unknown was why Charles Hogan found his way back to Blackfoot Valley, where, incidentally, he’d been a standout basketball player in his youth. His car was discovered in the parking lot, and based on the debris inside – junk food wrappers, styrofoam coffee cups, crumpled packs of cigarettes, empty beer cans, and old clothes – it appeared he’d been living out of his car from a long time before coming to Blackfoot Valley.

The case remains open to this day.

Also unknown is exactly when or why the “new” Blackfoot Valley ceased its operations. Did Charles Hogan die alone in an abandoned camp…or did the campers and counselors have some hand in his death before they left? Is that why they left? No signs were found as to why everyone left so suddenly, or where they went to. Stories say the camp was strewn with supplies, clothes, food, and booze, as if one day, everyone simply got up and walked out, en masse. The lawns and shrubs showed signs over overgrowth, also.

Despite this shocking turn of events, just as Clifton Heights folks dismissed Blackfoot Valley’s existence, they gradually dismissed its sudden closing and the discovery of Charles Hogan’s body. Blackfoot Valley was closed and in ruins, end of story, Jerry Ruben’s shameful legacy finally buried. Some poor sap had been found dead there, probably because he’d overdosed on drugs or something, and that was all. That Hogan had grown up in Clifton Heights seemed of no importance whatsoever.

Blackfoot Valley Sports Camp fell completely silent for the next twenty years. At some point, ownership must’ve quietly reverted back to the county, but there’s never been any talk of developing the property for other uses until now. No one has ever seemed to care much about trespassing. Looking back on my short time as an English teacher at Clifton Heights High, I remember kids talking about braving old Bassler House (a teenage rite of passage in Clifton Heights) and exploring the ruins of Zoo Town up behind Raedeker Park. Thinking on it, I don’t remember any of them saying a word about messing around at Blackfoot Valley Sports Camp.

Thanks to my own case of willful amnesia, I hadn’t thought twice about Blackfoot Valley myself until I was talking to Kevin Ellison (one of those former standouts I mentioned) in his bookstore, ArcaneDelights, and he mentioned it had finally been purchased by the Nuemann Development Company. It was scheduled to be demolished by the end of the week.

I decided I needed to see it one last time before it came down. After finding those archived articles detailing Blackfoot’s increasingly dark history, I called Bobby Nuemann. He and I attended and played basketball together at Blackfoot Valley High. I called him on the pretense of writing a book about Blackfoot Valley, about who bought it after Jerry Rueben sold it, what may have led to its sudden closing, and the mysteries of its accidents and deaths.  Bobby’s not much of a reader, but he knows about the books I’ve written. He said I could poke around the old camp to my heart’s content.

So here I am.

*

But now that I’m here, standing at the mouth of the cracked asphalt drive, I wonder if I could ever express my true feelings about this place. So many days spent here, playing under the hot blue summer skies, from sixth grade to that last summer before my senior year in high school. Days spent running and jumping, the air split by whistles, coaches barking demands, players yelling while sweat poured down faces, stinging eyes and tasting salty. Nights spent sleeping in bunks, dreaming of the future, of basketball glory, or of the college girls interning in the infirmary that week. Sleeping and dreaming, calves and thighs throbbing with the pleasant ache of exercise.

Proceeding up the warped asphalt path toward the main office building, my flashlight cutting a narrow path ahead in the darkness, I remember also the unpleasant things which happened here, bad things which unfortunately can’t be blamed on anything supernatural. Much as we’d like to preserve memories in a crystalline amber of nostalgia, we have to acknowledge the darkness hiding behind the light. In all our beloved memories, dark things lurk. Blackfoot Valley is no exception.

Approaching the old mess hall, I remember campers dumped here for a week not because they liked basketball or because they wanted to improve their game, but because their parents wanted to pawn them off. I remember their discontent, and in many cases, their misery. I remember how coaches and other players showed these square pegs no mercy. I also remember talented players gone bitter, laboring under the yoke of their athletic parents’ grandiose expectations. From all accounts, Laura Mason, the first victim of the Blackfoot Valley “curse” (yes, that word has actually been used), was one such player.

I remember the bullies, also. Coaches, counselors, and other campers. The desire for power over others knows no boundaries, no age limit. There will always be those who desire most of all to dominate those around them. Much as I loved basketball in high school, as an aggressive contact sport, it does provide ample breeding ground for those who are stronger to overpower those who are weaker. It pains me to admit it, but in my heart, I can’t deny it.

These bullies, who tormented younger campers, the counselors who ruled their cabins with mercurial fists, and the coaches who wielded their whistles like finely honed razors. They linger, these dreadful ghosts, right alongside the good memories. A brooding reminder, I suppose. The brighter and higher the sun, the darker and longer the shadows.

*

As I walk between the main office building (where the camp caretaker bunked during camp) and the mess hall, I can’t see much of the buildings under my flashlight. I suppose that’s a good thing. I even wonder if that’s why I kept puttering around Arcane Delights before it closed, chatting with Kevin Ellison and roaming his stacks aimlessly, without really looking for anything. Maybe I subconsciously knew seeing Blackfoot Valley one last time by the dim moonlight would let me see it as I wished, would let me use the darkness to re-construct an image from cherished memory.

But even the darkness can’t hide the mounds of garbage bags piled on the main house’s front porch as my flashlight sweeps by. It can’t hide the wildly overgrown lawns, or the coach’s dorm behind the main house, which now leans sideways, its roof caved in.

I skirt the coach’s dorm and move past it, walking along the mess hall, which we raided late nights as counselors. We plundered the cereal supplies and leftover desserts after playing hours of basketball. I enjoyed many nights there with my friends, so maybe it’s the best place to start my tour.

I round the corner for the mess hall’s front door, leaving the ruined coach’s dorm behind. I shouldn’t be surprised at what I see…but I am, regardless.

The mess hall door is gone.

The doorway looms open like a black mouth stretching wide in a soundless scream. My hand shakes and hesitates for just a moment (making me feel foolish, like a child) before I steady my hand and direct the flashlight’s beam into the darkness inside.

It doesn’t penetrate.

The flashlight’s white lance fades into the darkness, almost like it’s being absorbed. It’s not reflected or anything like that; there’s no inner door it’s hitting. The deeper it penetrates into the darkness, the flashlight’s beam fades, as if the darkness is absorbing it…or draining its luminescence.

Staring at the dark, I shiver and again think of all those unaccounted years when the mysterious out of town owners ran their private “spiritual retreat,” what Jerry Rueban called “a different kind of summer camp.” I think of  the rumors about what went on, and the discovery of Charles Hogan’s body in a camp abandoned Roanoke-style. I think of the strange-eyed, distant camp counselors,  who didn’t seem to know how to act like real people.

I want to dismiss those stories as hard feelings. Seeing the dark in the old mess hall draining my flashlight, I imagine it cavernous and empty, and I can’t help but think of the stories about strange rituals and even orgies. Abruptly, I want to be as far away from the mess hall as possible.

Soon as I swing my flashlight from the gaping darkness and face the path leading up the hill; I feel better. A subtle pressure is lifted as I turn away. Of course, I dismiss my unease as a product of the night, those whispered rumors, and too much Mary Sangiovanni in my reading diet.

Surely whatever happened here at Blackfoot Valley in its years as a “spiritual retreat” wasn’t anything as unclean as I imagine it to be. Maybe uncouth or unseemly, yes. It’s not hard to imagine Blackfoot Valley turned into a drunken away-camp for rich kids whose parents want to be free of them for a summer. I have no problem swallowing the stories of drunken rave parties and ordinary teenage lust. Surely the other stories are nothing more than dread fancy.

Surely.

But as I face the heaved asphalt path leading to the cabins (which look oddly preserved in the moonlight), the bath house, the main gym at the top of the hill, and the courts beyond, a great sadness fills me. Blackfoot Valley Sports Camp and its memories will be wiped away for good when the bulldozers rumble in tomorrow. All those memories – good and bad – will be torn up and plowed under by moving steel. Whatever may have happened here after the deaths started occurring, or when it became a “spiritual retreat,” will be plowed under, too.

I know why I’ve come, now. I’m at the wake of a dear old friend who went soft in the head and a little crazy at the end, a friend who maybe even went bad…but a friend, nonetheless. And because it seems I’m forever drawn to haunted, abandoned places everyone else has forgotten, it only seems right that I’m here to bear witness when everyone else has forgotten or has chosen to forget because remembering is too painful. I’m a writer, after all. That’s why I write. To remember what others choose to forget.

So, gripping my flashlight tighter, I proceed up the cracked asphalt walk, my flashlight’s beam wavering before me, wondering what strange tales linger in the ruins of Blackfoot Valley Sports Camp, waiting to be gathered and named, lest they be plowed under by moving steel and forgotten forever, and wondering what I’ll start writing about tomorrow, when I sit down at my desk, and pick up my pen.

Gavin Patchett
Clifton Heights, NY

Purchase Things You Need to read more from Clifton Heights:

http://getbook.at/ThingsYouNeed

GoodReads

Thanks so much for reading and to Kevin for joining us!

If you follow along the tour that Kevin put together, you can read many more articles and insights from Gavin Patchett, puzzle pieces if you will, as well as interviews with Kevin Lucia. Enjoy!

Frank Errington MichaelsSeptember 17th – Gavin Patchett’s The Name

Frank Errington Michaels – September 18th – Review

Anton Cancre – Sepember 19th – Hiram Grange’s Vaguely Inappropriate With Gavin Patchett

Amber Fallon – September 22nd – My Lament

Rebecca Snow – September 24th – Interview

Joe Falank – September 26th – Interview/The Man Who Sits in His Chair

Kevin Lucia at Cemetery Dance Online – September 28th – Special Edition of “Revelations”  on Cemetery Dance Online, about how the Greystone Bay Series, edited by Charles L. Grant, influenced Clifton Heights

John Questore – September 29th – The Crayfish God

Erin Al-Mehairi – September 30th – Rest in Peace, Blackfoot Valley

Wesley Southard – October 1st – The Sidewalk Scavenger

Ryan G. Clark – October 3rd – Review

Yvone Davies/The Terror Tree – October 5th – The White Cat of Samara Hill

Mark Allen Gunnells – October 7th – The Cairn

Things You Need

 

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